Paul: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

A plague on both their houses:

Perhaps it makes sense that women — those supposedly compliant and agreeable, self-sacrificing and everything-nice creatures — were the ones to finally bring our polarized country together.

Because the far right and the far left have found the one thing they can agree on: Women don’t count.

The right’s position here is the better known, the movement having aggressively dedicated itself to stripping women of fundamental rights for decades. Thanks in part to two Supreme Court justices who have been credibly accused of abusive behavior toward women, Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years a target, has been ruthlessly overturned.

Far more bewildering has been the fringe left jumping in with its own perhaps unintentionally but effectively misogynist agenda. There was a time when campus groups and activist organizations advocated strenuously on behalf of women. Women’s rights were human rights and something to fight for. Though the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified, legal scholars and advocacy groups spent years working to otherwise establish women as a protected class.

But today, a number of academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists, civil liberties organizations and medical organizations are working toward an opposite end: to deny women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes.

As reported by my colleague Michael Powell, even the word “women” has become verboten. Previously a commonly understood term for half the world’s population, the word had a specific meaning tied to genetics, biology, history, politics and culture. No longer. In its place are unwieldy terms like “pregnant people,” “menstruators” and “bodies with vaginas.”

Planned Parenthood, once a stalwart defender of women’s rights, omits the word “women” from its home page. NARAL Pro-Choice America has used “birthing people” in lieu of “women.” The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime defender of women’s rights, last month tweeted its outrage over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as a threat to several groups: “Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the L.G.B.T.Q. community, immigrants, young people.”

It left out those threatened most of all: women. Talk about a bitter way to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

The noble intent behind omitting the word “women” is to make room for the relatively tiny number of transgender men and people identifying as nonbinary who retain aspects of female biological function and can conceive, give birth or breastfeed. But despite a spirit of inclusion, the result has been to shove women to the side.

Women, of course, have been accommodating. They’ve welcomed transgender women into their organizations. They’ve learned that to propose any space just for biological women in situations where the presence of males can be threatening or unfair — rape crisis centers, domestic abuse shelters, competitive sports — is currently viewed by some as exclusionary. If there are other marginalized people to fight for, it’s assumed women will be the ones to serve other people’s agendas rather than promote their own.

But, but, but. Can you blame the sisterhood for feeling a little nervous? For wincing at the presumption of acquiescence? For worrying about the broader implications? For wondering what kind of message we are sending to young girls about feeling good in their bodies, pride in their sex and the prospects of womanhood? For essentially ceding to another backlash?

Women didn’t fight this long and this hard only to be told we couldn’t call ourselves women anymore. This isn’t just a semantic issue; it’s also a question of moral harm, an affront to our very sense of ourselves.

It wasn’t so long ago — and in some places the belief persists — that women were considered a mere rib to Adam’s whole. Seeing women as their own complete entities, not just a collection of derivative parts, was an important part of the struggle for sexual equality.

But here we go again, parsing women into organs. Last year the British medical journal The Lancet patted itself on the back for a cover article on menstruation. Yet instead of mentioning the human beings who get to enjoy this monthly biological activity, the cover referred to “bodies with vaginas.” It’s almost as if the other bits and bobs — uteruses, ovaries or even something relatively gender-neutral like brains — were inconsequential. That such things tend to be wrapped together in a human package with two X sex chromosomes is apparently unmentionable.

“What are we, chopped liver?” a woman might be tempted to joke, but in this organ-centric and largely humorless atmosphere, perhaps she would be wiser not to.

Those women who do publicly express mixed emotions or opposing views are often brutally denounced for asserting themselves. (Google the word “transgender” combined with the name Martina Navratilova, J.K. Rowling or Kathleen Stock to get a withering sense.) They risk their jobs and their personal safety. They are maligned as somehow transphobic or labeled TERFs, a pejorative that may be unfamiliar to those who don’t step onto this particular Twitter battlefield. Ostensibly shorthand for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” which originally referred to a subgroup of the British feminist movement, “TERF” has come to denote any woman, feminist or not, who persists in believing that while transgender women should be free to live their lives with dignity and respect, they are not identical to those who were born female and who have lived their entire lives as such, with all the biological trappings, societal and cultural expectations, economic realities and safety issues that involves.

But in a world of chosen gender identities, women as a biological category don’t exist. Some might even call this kind of thing erasure.

When not defining women by body parts, misogynists on both ideological poles seem determined to reduce women to rigid gender stereotypes. The formula on the right we know well: Women are maternal and domestic — the feelers and the givers and the “Don’t mind mes.” The unanticipated newcomers to such retrograde typecasting are the supposed progressives on the fringe left. In accordance with a newly embraced gender theory, they now propose that girls — gay or straight — who do not self-identify as feminine are somehow not fully girls. Gender identity workbooks created by transgender advocacy groups for use in schools offer children helpful diagrams suggesting that certain styles or behaviors are “masculine” and others “feminine.”

Didn’t we ditch those straitened categories in the ’70s?

The women’s movement and the gay rights movement, after all, tried to free the sexes from the construct of gender, with its antiquated notions of masculinity and femininity, to accept all women for who they are, whether tomboy, girly girl or butch dyke. To undo all this is to lose hard-won ground for women — and for men, too.

Those on the right who are threatened by women’s equality have always fought fiercely to put women back in their place. What has been disheartening is that some on the fringe left have been equally dismissive, resorting to bullying, threats of violence, public shaming and other scare tactics when women try to reassert that right. The effect is to curtail discussion of women’s issues in the public sphere.

But women are not the enemy here. Consider that in the real world, most violence against trans men and women is committed by men but, in the online world and in the academy, most of the ire at those who balk at this new gender ideology seems to be directed at women.

It’s heartbreaking. And it’s counterproductive.

Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another. We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives.

If only women’s voices were routinely welcomed and respected on these issues. But whether Trumpist or traditionalist, fringe left activist or academic ideologue, misogynists from both extremes of the political spectrum relish equally the power to shut women up.

Source: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

She’s trilingual, has a PhD and loads of work experience. So why was getting a job in Canada an ordeal?

Ongoing barriers of note:

With a PhD and eight years of project management experience, Hala El Ouarrak didn’t expect finding a job would be that hard in Canada.

Before the Moroccan woman arrived in Toronto in 2019, she took part in all the pre-arrival settlement services and employment counselling that were available to soon-to-be newcomers. She was assured her skills and experience were sought after in the Canadian job market.

“I did everything to the letter to make sure that I’m not missing anything when I get here. The feedback was I wouldn’t have any problem finding a job, and all I would need would be a Canadian phone number for employers to reach me,” said El Ouarrak, whose doctoral degree is in applied math and automatic control engineering.

Instead, the 31-year-old worked as a sales account manager at a shoe store and teaching statistics on a side as a private tutor, while “upgrading” her CV by acquiring four additional Canadian project-management credentials. (Some of El Ouarrak’s struggle came during the pandemic’s disruptions, but she says the number of job postings wasn’t affected.)

“It actually took me two years to get back to my field,” said El Ouarrak, now an IT consultant and part-time lecturer in project management and data analysis at Northeastern University’s Toronto campus.

A new study suggests this sort of problem has been an issue for years — that many highly skilled and educated female immigrants in Canada are facing immense disparities in employment outcomes due to employer biases, gender-based barriers and other factors.

“Immigrant women face distinct challenges in entering and advancing in the Canadian labour market. They encounter downward career mobility and underemployment relative to their education and professional backgrounds,” says the study by Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

“Data also shows that the earnings of immigrant women, especially those who are racialized, lag behind those of immigrant men and Canadian-born women, and their unemployment rate is higher.”

Based on an online survey of 365 immigrant women in Greater Toronto — two-thirds with at least a master’s degree — and subsequent interviews, researchers found that 83.8 per cent of respondents had taken at least one of the following measures to “fit” the culture or expectations of Canadian employers:

  • 57.5 per cent had downgraded their stated educational achievements and/or experience to not appear overqualified for a position;
  • 43 per cent had accepted unpaid work or internships in a role related to their field of expertise to gain “Canadian experience”;
  • 21.9 per cent said they had changed or shortened their name to sound “more Canadian”;
  • 15.3 per cent sought training to help change their accents;
  • 13.7 per cent of respondents changed their appearances to make their looks more acceptable to “Canadian culture.”

“The compromises some immigrant women have to make to start their careers in Canada is in contrast to the high value Canada’s points-based immigration system places on their skills,” said report author Sugi Vasavithasan, TRIEC’s research and evaluation manager.

“Having to downplay their qualifications or change aspects of themselves to enter the Canadian labour market can be demoralizing for immigrant women. It hurts their dignity and self-esteem.”

Immigrant women’s jobless rate, at 12.2 per cent, is much higher than their Canadian-born peers (4.9 per cent) and immigrant men (6.4 per cent), said the report. Among principal applicants admitted in 2009 under various skilled immigration programs, women made $17,400 less than their male counterparts after 10 years.

Maysam Fadel settled in Toronto in 2019 after working for the United Nations Refugee Agency as a community service co-ordinator and for UNICEF as emergency officer in Syria for a decade.

The 36-year-old applied to more than 500 jobs posted in the not-for-profit sector but didn’t receive one single reply. She finally found a survival job working as a sales associate in retail while volunteering at different organizations, including the Canadian Red Cross.

“Employers all ask for Canadian experience and don’t consider any of the experience you had back home,” said Fadel, who has an undergraduate degree in English literature from Damascus University.

“I was very depressed and I lost my hope of ever finding an appropriate job in alignment with my experience.”

The husband of a friend’s friend helped her polish her resumé and she dropped her last name, Allah, on her CV, to avoid any potential biases she might face from prospective employers. Then response started trickling in and she finally was hired as a volunteer co-ordinator at a community service agency.

While she needed to learn about the operations and work culture at the organization, she said she’s simply applying the same skills she acquired from back home to her new job in Canada. 

“I didn’t get a new skill I didn’t have before. It’s just transferring my skills from one context to another. You need to learn and adapt whenever you change jobs even in Canada. That’s normal,” said Fadel, who last year got a promotion to be a manager at the same agency. 

El Ouarrak, who speaks fluent Arabic, English and French, said immigrant women shouldn’t have to downplay their credentials just to get their foot into the door.

Rather, she said, Canadian employers should adopt blind hiring practices to focus on seeking out candidates with the right skills and block out personal information that could bias a hiring decision. 

“Hiring managers are looking for unique profiles of candidates who qualify but to get to the hiring managers, you have to go through recruiters, the gatekeepers who are checking the boxes. If you don’t check 80 per cent of the boxes, they don’t even look at your profile,” said El Ouarrak. “I think that’s where the disconnect is.”

The study calls for improvement to generic employment support programs to reflect the unique needs of highly skilled immigrant women, as well as further education of hiring managers and recruiters in looking past stereotypes and recognizing the value of foreign credentials brought by female immigrants.

Source: She’s trilingual, has a PhD and loads of work experience. So why was getting a job in Canada an ordeal?

Khan: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque

Of interest:

When Tasneem Noor got on the stage at the Women’s Mosque of America in Los Angeles, she felt butterflies in her stomach. Facing about fifty women on praying rugs, ready to deliver a sermon – khutba in Arabic – she took a deep breath.

During the prayers, the women would follow Noor’s lead, but several would pray four more times after it ended, to make up for any potentially invalid prayers. That is the result of a 14-century-old disputed hadith, that leads some to believe women are forbidden to lead prayers and deliver sermons.

“I don’t mind,” Noor told me later. “Some people function better with rules.”

Noor, 37, is part of a quiet revolution in America: at the all women’s mosque, she was celebrating its five year anniversary of practicing the female imamat, a rare and often controversial practice in Islam.

Women aren’t even allowed to pray in many mosques across the world. In some mosques in the US, women may enter, but are often forced pray in separate rooms – leading some to call it the “penalty box”. Spiritual leaders that have pushed boundaries – by running mixed congregation mosques or running an LGBTQ mosque – have received death threats.

But at the Women’s Mosque of America, women are using their sermons to cover previously untouched topics like sexual violence, pregnancy loss and domestic violence.

One of Noor’s most memorable sermons happened in 2017 – a surprise, considering it was largely an improvisation. After a scheduling hitch left Noor with less than half of the 45-minutes she should have had, she shortened her talk and changed tack: leading the congregation into a meditation.

Source: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque

Khan: Muslims can improve our communities on our own. We just have to be willing to speak out

Indeed. And good initiative to address equality and equity issues:

Some years ago, I learned that our local mosque refused to allow women to serve on the board. This sexist practice was also entrenched in the bylaws of the British Columbia Muslim Association for nearly four decades. Only Muslim men, it turned out, could be elected to the board, and only by Muslim men. When I asked the mosque and the BCMA if they would change their policies, they unequivocally refused.

But when I began to prepare a column about the issue, a lawyer reached out, asking me to refrain from speaking out. Why? There was concern that then-prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government would use this information to go after mosques. “Not now – give us time,” came the plea.

“So, once the Liberals are elected, mosques will open their boards to women?” I asked. We both knew the answer.

Rather than address the discrimination within, some organizations have found it easier to simply ignore internal criticism, while silencing whistle-blowers with emotional blackmail: You’ll hurt the community by airing dirty laundry. The problem is that the laundry is piling up and the stench is getting unbearable, while those who can access the washing machine continue to refuse to do their chores.

The situation is especially acute for victims of violence and abuse. They are often pressed to keep matters quiet, and not file charges, so that the community won’t look bad in the eyes of the public. Meanwhile, there is little accountability of perpetrators. Those who do speak out are shamed as traitors, enablers of Islamophobia, or worse, as self-hating Muslims. Often, it is the voices of women that are silenced by these heavy-handed tactics. Consequently, justice is thrown under the bus of community self-censorship.

It’s why well-meaning institutions overreach in their attempts to stamp out a quantum of Islamophobia. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), for instance, has yet to decide whether it will allow teenaged girls to participate in a book club event featuring Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who was enslaved, tortured and raped by members of the Islamic State. This courageous young woman refused to remain silent, and has even won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to seek justice for her people. That she was assaulted by sadistic individuals acting under the cover of an inhumane interpretation of Islam is part of her truth, as is the fact that Muslims worldwide repudiate the Islamic State. The TDSB apparently fears that impressionable teens may not be able to distinguish between an extremist group and ordinary Muslims who are their friends and neighbours.

But here’s a thought: The Muslim community can simultaneously fight Islamophobia and address the ills within it. It is not, and should not be, a zero-sum game. Just as Muslims desire from others safety, freedom from discrimination, access to justice and the opportunity to thrive, they should work hard to ensure the same principles apply to those who are themselves Muslims. One cannot make demands and then plead indifference when asked to fulfill those same demands. As the Quran states in the chapter titled “Women”: “Oh you who believe. Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even though it is against yourselves, your family, the rich or the poor.”

Here’s another thought: Muslim women have the agency to improve their own lives. Their own history is replete with illustrious paradigms, including that of Khawlah bint Tha’labah, who challenged a cruel marital custom in 7th-century Arabia when no one else dared; her courageous stand led to its abolition. She is known as “al-Mujaadilah,” or “the woman who pleaded,” in the 58th chapter of the Quran. For 14 centuries, Khawlah has been a model for unwavering commitment to justice within.

In the coming weeks, the Mujaadilah Centre – founded on the noble example of Khawlah – will be launching. Its goal is to unapologetically address harms faced by Canadian Muslim women within their communities. This will include an in-depth analysis of the gender make-up of mosque boards across the country. And in 2022, the centre will address the controversial practice of polygamy here in Canada, by providing new legal research of the Criminal Code along with documentation of harm suffered by women and children.

There is hope on the horizon. A new generation of Muslims is demanding greater accountability of leadership. They will not turn a blind eye to discrimination and abuse within, since they understand that wrongdoings left unaddressed will only lead to worse outcomes. Too many lives have been destroyed for this to continue. This cohort is taking the lead on addressing taboos head-on. They will make a difference for the better.

In the meantime, let’s all strive for a better society – standing up for what is right, and forbidding what is wrong, across all communities.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-muslims-can-improve-our-communities-on-our-own-we-just-have-to-be/

DiManno: Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?

Some silliness going on that DiManno highlights:

“You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Person with a Vagina.”

“Man! I Feel Like a Person who Menstruates

“Oh, Pretty Person with a Cervix”

Apologies to Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain and Roy Orbison, but this appears to be where we’re heading if language radicals get their way.

And they’re getting it, tying everybody up in linguistic knots so as not to offend or get clobbered by the social media mob.

The inclusive objective is worthy.

The erasure of women is not.

“Woman” is in danger of becoming a dirty word … struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation.

Which is a bitchy thing to do to half the world’s population.

It shouldn’t leave well-meaning people tongue-tied, lest they be attacked as transphobic or otherwise insensitive to the increasingly complex constructs of gender. 

“The Lancet,” the prestigious and highly influential British medical journal, put “Bodies with Vaginas” on the cover of its latest issue, referring to an article inside, entitled “Periods on Display,” a review of an exhibit about the history of menstruation at the Vagina Museum in London.

Maybe the editors, who tweeted the piece, were just looking for clickbait, with a pullquote on the cover teasing that “Historically, the anatomy and physiology of such bodies have been neglected” — this although the author had used the phrase “bodies with vaginas,” only once and “women” four times. 

A hell-storm broke out, quite rightly, with readers indignant over the wording. As one, an author of books on childbirth and women’s bodies, wrote: “You’re telling us that you’ve noticed that, for hundreds of years, you’ve neglected and overlooked women, and, then, in the same breath, you are unable to name those people you’ve been ignoring.”

The magazine’s editor-in-chief apologized hastily. 

This isn’t an argument against gender self-identification. Surely we’re well past that. It’s more about an infelicitous evolution of language, which is fundamentally about communicating clearly. Even if making the argument ends up aligning uncomfortably with reactionaries and regressives with whom I have no truck. 

In one fell swoop, “The Lancet” — remember, this is a medical publication! — reduced womanhood, biological or metaphysical, to purely anatomical parts, a gross reversal of the century-long campaign to, not only achieve equal rights, but for women to be seen as more than their biological and rampantly objectified, sexualized packaging. This is fundamental to feminism and humanism. Further, we are seeing, in, for example, legislation passed or coming down the pike in U.S. to severely restrict abortions, basically undoing Roe vs. Wade, how fragile these gains can be. 

“That Lancet” episode was not an over-woke outlier. 

The American Civil Liberties Union took detestable liberties by deliberately mauling the words of beloved and brilliant Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in marking the one-year anniversary of her death. Reaching back to comments Ginsburg made during her confirmation hearings in 1980, wherein she spoke about the right of women to obtain an abortion, the ACLU unilaterally removed “woman,” replacing it with “person.”

It came out thusly: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a (person’s) life, to (their) wellbeing and dignity …. When the government controls that decision for (people), (they are) being treated as less than a fully adult human and responsible for (their) own choices.” 

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, also subsequently issued a grovelling mea culpa, promising he’d never again drastically alter quotes in the future.

But is that really a lesson that needed to be pounded into his head? 

And still Romero tried to justify his interference by claiming that Ginsburg would have supported more inclusive language.

Maybe so. I would really like to know what she might have thought. But we don’t and can’t and it’s outrageous for anyone to mishmash the justice’s voice.

Women have abortions. Or, I suppose, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid can terminate a pregnancy.

Women have babies. Or, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid, can get pregnant. 

Yet in 2016, the British Medical Association recommended staff use “pregnant people,” instead of pregnant women. A British hospital now instructs staff on its maternity ward to use “birthing people,” instead of pregnant women. The Biden administration’s proposed 2022 budget substituted “birth people” for mothers. Rep. Cori Bush has used that term, while her Congressional Squad teammate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has talked of “menstruating people.”

These are women I admire but they’ve jumped the shark. 

All of this recalls the point bestselling author J.K. Rowling was trying to make, wryly, in a tweet that got her bludgeoned by the mob: “People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” 

Rowling was branded a TERF — activists do like their neologisms — meaning trans exclusionary radical feminist. As if she was hostile to the trans movement, which she assuredly is not. Some bookstores removed her work from their shelves. Were she not a gazillion-selling author, Rowling could have lost her publisher.

In Britain, where roughly 680,000 people do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, according to government figures, midwives at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals were told to start using terms such as “chest milk,” instead of breast milk. This, apparently, because some transgender men who give birth and nurse their babies were distressed at being reminded of what they were doing with those lactating female appendages. Although surely “breast” is a gender-neutral term, as both sexes have them and both can develop breast cancer. 

This is all directly a phenomenon resulting from trans activism run amok.

I get the passion for recasting language, to improve gender and LGBT equity, to minimize the “cognitive mental salience” of males. 

The movement has been spectacularly successful in the progressive West, although English isn’t as heavily gendered as, say, Italian or French. Truly, props for an undertaking that has given voice and power to a demographic historically oppressed, horribly shaped and disproportionately subjected to violence!

Merriam-Webster was the first dictionary to add gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “themself” to refer to a person whose “gender identity is non-binary.” 

But these examples go far beyond insistence on neutral pronouns, into an outer orbit of linguistics where both women, as a gender, and “woman” as a noun are being blotted out. 

There’s more than a whiff of misogyny to it. Why “woman” the no-speak word and not “man?” Why not “persons who urinate standing up” or “people who eject semen?” 

Certainly there are words — they are slurs mostly — that are no longer acceptable. “Woman” shouldn’t be one of them. 

The battleground of language has turned into a baffleground of agendas. 

I am woman and I am roaring.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/10/15/why-cant-we-say-woman-anymore.html

Malaysian mothers hail win for equality in citizenship case

Significant:

A group of Malaysian mothers won a landmark legal challenge Thursday, overturning what they described as discriminatory citizenship rules affecting women who gave birth overseas.

The rules had meant a woman with a foreign spouse who had a child abroad was barred from automatically passing on her Malaysian nationality.

Similar restrictions did not apply to men from the Southeast Asian country, who enjoy a straight path to citizenship for their offspring.

Socially conservative Malaysia was among only a handful of countries worldwide with such rules, with campaigners long complaining they were discriminatory.

But on Thursday, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled in favour of a challenge brought by six Malaysian mothers, who argued the regulations breached the constitution.

“This judgement recognises Malaysian women’s equality, and marks one step forward to a more egalitarian and just Malaysia,” said Suri Kempe, president of NGO Family Frontiers, which helped bring the case to court.

The judgement applies to all Malaysian mothers, not just the plaintiffs in the case, she said.

The lawyer for the mothers, Gurdial Singh Nijar, hailed a “momentous decision”, saying the rules had “disrupted family structures”.

There was no immediate reaction from the government, and it was not clear whether they would appeal the ruling.

Campaigners said the law had sometimes left women trapped in abusive relationships.

If they brought their children back to Malaysia, the youngsters faced obstacles in accessing public services like free education and healthcare.

Women could apply for their overseas-born children to be granted citizenship but authorities rarely agreed.

According to Family Frontiers, the home ministry received over 4,000 applications between 2013 and 2018, but only approved 142.

The government had sought to get the mothers’ challenge dismissed, insisting the rules were in line with the constitution.

But campaigners said they breached constitutional guarantees to equality before the law, and the court allowed the case to proceed.

Source: Malaysian mothers hail win for equality in citizenship case

China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births in Xinjiang

Good long and disturbing read. But given all the accounts of Chinese government repression, not all that surprising. Time for more public shaming of the Chinese government, no longer extending speaking invitations to Chinese diplomats and boycotting the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics:

When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisisfrom a declining birthrate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, they are forcing them to have fewer, as they tighten their grip on Muslim ethnic minorities.

It is part of a vast and repressive social re-engineering campaign by a Communist Party determined to eliminate any perceived challenge to its rule, in this case, ethnic separatism. Over the past few years, the party, under its top leader, Xi Jinping, has moved aggressively to subdue Uyghurs and other Central Asian minorities in Xinjiang, putting hundreds of thousands into internment camps and prisons. The authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, sent residents to work in factoriesand placed children in boarding schools.

By targeting Muslim women, the authorities are going even further, attempting to orchestrate a demographic shift that will affect the population for generations. Birthrates in the region have already plunged in recent years, as the use of invasive birth control procedures has risen, findings that were previously documented by a researcher, Adrian Zenz, with The Associated Press.

While the authorities have said the procedures are voluntary, interviews with more than a dozen Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim women and men from Xinjiang, as well as a review of official statistics, government notices and reports in the state-run media, depict a coercive effort by the Chinese Communist Party to control the community’s reproductive rights. The authorities pressured women to use IUDs or get sterilized. As they recuperated at home, government officials were sent to live with them to watch for signs of discontent; one woman described having to endure her minder’s groping.

If they had too many children or refused contraceptive procedures, they faced steep fines or, worse, detention in an internment camp. In the camps, the women were at risk of even more abuse. Some former detainees say they were made to take drugs that stopped their menstrual cycles. One woman said she had been raped in a camp.

To rights advocates and Western officials, the government’s repression in Xinjiang is tantamount to crimes against humanityand genocide, in large part because of the efforts to stem the population growth of Muslim minorities. The Trump administration in January was the first government to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as a leading reason; the Biden administration affirmed the label in March.

Ms. Sedik’s experience, reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, helped form the basis for the decision by the United States government. “It was one of the most detailed and compelling first-person accounts we had,” said Kelley E. Currie, a former United States ambassador who was involved in the government’s discussions. “It helped to put a face on the horrifying statistics we were seeing.”

Beijing has accused its critics of pushing an anti-China agenda. 

The recent declines in the region’s birthrates, the government has said, were the result of the authorities’ fully enforcing longstanding birth restrictions. The sterilizations and contraceptive procedures, it said, freed women from backward attitudes about procreation and religion.

“Whether to have birth control or what contraceptive method they choose are completely their own wishes,” Xu Guixiang, a Xinjiang government spokesman, said at a news conference in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”

To women in Xinjiang, the orders from the government were clear: They didn’t have a choice.

Last year, a community worker in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Ms. Sedik had lived, sent messages saying women between 18 and 59 had to submit to pregnancy and birth control inspections.

“If you fight with us at the door and if you refuse to cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station,” the worker wrote, according to screenshots of the WeChat messages that Ms. Sedik shared with The Times.

“Do not gamble with your life,” one message read, “don’t even try.”

All her life, Ms. Sedik, an ethnic Uzbek, had thought of herself as a model citizen.

After she graduated from college, she married and threw herself into her work, teaching Chinese to Uyghur elementary school students. Mindful of the rules, Ms. Sedik didn’t get pregnant until she had gotten approval from her employer. She had only one child, a daughter, in 1993.

Ms. Sedik could have had two children. The rules at the time allowed ethnic minorities to have slightly bigger families than those of the majority Han Chinese ethnic group, particularly in the countryside. The government even awarded Ms. Sedik a certificate of honor for staying within the limits.

Then, in 2017, everything changed.

As the government corralled Uyghurs and Kazakhs into mass internment camps, it moved in tandem to ramp up enforcement of birth controls. Sterilization rates in Xinjiang surged by almost sixfold from 2015 to 2018, to just over 60,000 procedures, even as they plummeted around the country, according to calculations by Mr. Zenz.

The campaign in Xinjiang is at odds with a broader push by the government since 2015 to encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.

The contraception campaign appeared to work.

Birthrates in minority-dominated counties in the region plummeted from 2015 to 2018, based on Mr. Zenz’s calculations. Several of these counties have stopped publishing population data, but Mr. Zenz calculated that the birthrates in minority areas probably continued to fall in 2019 by just over 50 percent from 2018, based on figures from other counties.

The sharp drop in birthrates in the region was “shocking” and clearly in part a result of the campaign to tighten enforcement of birth control policies, said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology and expert in Chinese population policies at University of California, Irvine. But other factors could include a fall in the number of women of childbearing age, later marriages and postponed births, he said.

As the government pushes back against growing criticism, it has withheld some key statistics, including annually published county-level data on birthrates and birth control use for 2019. Other official data for the region as a whole showed a steep drop in IUD insertions and sterilizations that year, though the number of sterilizations was still mostly higher than before the campaign began.

In Beijing’s depiction, the campaign is a victory for the region’s Muslim women.

“In the process of deradicalization, some women’s minds have also been liberated,” a January report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”

Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”

The penalties for not obeying the government were steep. A Han Chinese woman who violated the birth regulations would face a fine, while a Uyghur or Kazakh woman wouldface possible detention.

When Gulnar Omirzakh had her third child in 2015, officials in her northern village registered the birth. But three years later, they said she had violated birth limits and owed $2,700 in fines.

Officials said they would detain Ms. Omirzakh and her two daughters if she did not pay.

She borrowed money from her relatives. Later, she fled to Kazakhstan.

“The women of Xinjiang are in danger,” Ms. Omirzakh said in a telephone interview. “The government wants to replace our people.”

The threat of detention was real.

Three women told The Times they had met other detainees in internment camps who had been locked up for violating birth restrictions.

Dina Nurdybay, a Kazakh woman, said she helped one woman write a letter to the authorities in which she blamed herself for being ignorant and having too many children.

Such accounts are corroborated by a 137-page government document leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.

Those who refused to terminate illegal pregnancies or pay fines would be referred to the internment camps, according to one government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.

Once women disappeared into the region’s internment camps — facilities operated under secrecy — many were subjected to interrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her. 

“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview from the United States, where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.

The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.

The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.

“The sexual assault and torture cannot exist,” said Mr. Xu, the regional spokesman, at a news briefing in February.

Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.

Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in. 

The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.

The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.

When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.

Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?

“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”

But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.

Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.

Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.

She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.

Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.

It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.

“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”

“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/10/world/asia/china-xinjiang-women-births.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Khan: It’s critical to ask why, even today, some Canadian Muslim organizations have no female leaders

Another good column and series of questions by Sheema Khan:

Since its inception in 1966, the BC Muslim Association, which calls itself “the largest Muslim organization in the province representing Sunni Muslims,” has never had a woman on its executive council. The women are relegated to a “Women’s Council,” which is subordinate to the executive. The original BCMA constitution explicitly banned women from serving on the executive council. While that wording has since been removed, in practise little has changed, and female voices haven’t been given a chance to shape the governance and future of the organization.

There is no theological basis for this arrangement at the organization, which was founded by immigrants from South Asia and Fiji and holds $41-million in assets. Apparently, the (male) powers-that-be see no contradiction with this discriminatory practice and the BCMA’s stated aim of “building a healthy congregation.”

Unhappiness with this approach came to a head last summer, when the BCMA excluded women from all prayer spaces throughout the province, as it partly reopened mosques in the wake of COVID-19. Priority had been given to men.

And then came the bombshell in December, when the CBC broke the story of BCMA imam Abdur Rehman Khan, who was convicted for a 2016 sexual assault against a woman he knew through his role in the community. He was sentenced to three years in prison and placed on the registered sex offender list for 20 years. The imam was released on bail after being charged in 2017. He was later convicted at trial in January, 2020, released pending sentencing, and imprisoned in August, 2020. During this four-year period, he continued to serve as an imam of the BCMA’s Masjid-Ur-Rahmah mosque in Surrey – leading prayers, working with youth, engaging interfaith communities and officiating marriages. Last August, he resigned for “personal matters” – he was going to prison – which the BCMA said it accepted, without any inquiry or follow-up.

The BCMA says Mr. Khan passed a police background check when hired, and that the organization had not been made aware of the allegations and conviction, although some community members say they knew of the situation. If you look at BCMA’s online platforms, you would never know that one of its imams had been imprisoned for sexual assault just a few months ago. No statement whatsoever – no pledge to do better, no commitment to protect female congregants, no calls for other victims to come forward. It’s as if the crime never happened.

Congregants, on the other hand, were furious, demanding answers that never came. Activist and student Sumaiya Tufail organized a community drive-by protest in solidarity with the survivor, demanding transparency from the BCMA, protection of vulnerable congregants and an end to the all-male executive council. A special vote held in February to do away with the archaic setup that keeps the women’s role subordinate to the men’s failed by a substantial margin. The BCMA says that the current executive board anticipates that with increased awareness and engagement, the motion will pass successfully in the near future.

There should be consequences for keeping such draconian policies in place. Sunni Muslims in B.C. should make it clear that the BCMA does not represent them. Congregants should cease donating to the BCMA and instead support institutions that are more inclusive of women and more transparent. In 2019, the BCMA received $3.6-million in donations, accounting for almost half its revenue. Taking a cue from Lieutenant-Colonel Eleanor Taylor, who quit the Canadian Armed Forces in disgust after reports of alleged sexual misconduct, the BCMA’s Women’s Council should resign en masse in protest.

Schools, community associations, NGOs and interfaith groups can engage with Muslim organizations other than the BCMA. Pose tough questions – it’s not Islamophobic to ask why a Canadian Muslim charity doesn’t have any women serving on its executive council. While it may be common elsewhere, this should have no place in Canada.

Roughly 66 per cent of all Muslim charitable organizations registered with Canada Revenue Agency have an all-male board, with Quebec as the worst at 82 per cent. The BCMA, the Islamic Foundation of TorontoMasjid al-Hidayah(Port Coquitlam) and Baitul Mukarram Islamic Society (Toronto) have each had an employee charged or convicted of sexual assault; all have been governed exclusively by men between 2014 and 2018.

All of these incidents would remain hidden if it were not for courageous survivors, who not only endure the trauma of the original abuse, but face shame, blame and accusations of “making the community look bad.” They need compassion and our full support to heal. For too long, the reputation of abusive “leaders” has trumped justice for victims, leaving a trail of human wreckage. Activists working with survivors are all too aware of the tragic outcomes of Muslims abused by imams, preachers and teachers over recent decades. With their pain never addressed, many have struggled with mental-health issues, addictions, dysfunction in relationships and in some cases have even committed suicide.

This has to stop. We need real leaders – both women and men – who will address this serious issue head-on. Leaders who will make paramount the welfare of the vulnerable; who will educate communities about the trauma induced by abuse; and collaborate with agencies to help survivors with sensitivity and due care. Leaders who will hold abusers to account and live by the Islamic principle of standing up for justice – no matter who the perpetrator.

Sheema Khan is the author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-its-critical-to-ask-why-even-today-some-canadian-muslim-organizations/

Korea: Migrant women call for ‘Equal pay for equal work’

Of note:

Hundreds of female migrant workers employed at government-run facilities are suffering discrimination and unfair treatment, according to a recent survey by Hope Center with Migrant Workers, a civic group based in Seoul.

The survey results were revealed on Wednesday at a discussion session held by the Women Migrants Human Rights Center of Korea ahead of International Migrants Day which falls on Dec. 18.

About 80 percent of the 403 respondents working as interpreters, counselors and bilingual tutors stated that they have experienced discrimination such as unequal payment, limited promotion opportunities and unrecognized work experience.

“I’ve been working as an interpreter at a multicultural family support center for 13 years, during which I have never received holiday bonuses or extra pay for meal costs that are obviously provided to my Korean coworkers,” a marriage migrant was quoted as saying by the civic group. She requested anonymity.

“I don’t understand why I am paid less than my colleagues although we are given similar tasks. It’s hard to imagine that a state-run facility aimed at improving multicultural awareness openly discriminates employees by their nationality,” said another migrant woman with five years of work experience at the support center.

According to the data provided by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in October, bilingual tutors at public schools earn around 26.3 million won ($24,100) yearly, and interpreters working at multicultural support centers earn an average of 25.6 million won ― roughly 66 percent of the average annual salary of employees at the centers, which stood at 34.2 million won.

The civic group pointed out that the lack of details on wage guidelines has widened the payment gap.

The wage guidelines set by the ministry only state that interpreters and counselors should be paid “over the minimum wages,” whereas the specific manuals for Korean employees guarantee a yearly pay raise and chances for promotion based on their consecutive years of employment.

The survey also found that 91 percent of the migrant women experienced weak job security as their employment is based on temporary contracts of 10 months or one year. Also, 67 percent of the women have experienced workplace bullying such as verbal abuse and insults towards their home country.

“These issues, which have not been properly addressed for years, have turned into long-term systemic discrimination. Even the latest support measures from the gender ministry failed to reflect the realities in the workplace,” Wang Ji-yeon, head of the Migrant Women Association in Korea, told The Korea Times.

“What we need is improved job quality, not increased quantities of vacancies,” she said, regarding the ministry’s recent announcement to increase the number of interpreters in multicultural family support centers to 312 next year from the current 282.

She demanded an overhaul on the employment system; hiring qualified migrant women to full-time positions through proper recruitment procedures and providing education programs for their career development, as well as standardized wage guidelines.

“The current multicultural policies are mainly centered on family lives of migrant women, lacking support for their social activities. The government should recognize their capabilities and contributions to the country, and come up with better measures for them to be accepted as members of our society,” said Hwang Jeong-mi, a researcher at the Institute for Gender Research at Seoul National University.

Source: Migrant women call for ‘Equal pay for equal work’

Korea: Immigration not the only solution to demographic change

Interesting take, reflecting under-employment of women in Korea:

From an agrarian economy in the 1960s to now one of the strongest economic forces in Asia, Korea has evidently achieved tremendous economic growth, which not only comes with fiscal and welfare improvements but also demographic changes. The United Nations predicted that Korea’s population will peak in 2024 and decrease from then on and a 2000 UN Population Division report suggests immigration as a solution to this issue.

Yet, the rate at which Korea’s population is decreasing would require a mass immigration so large that it becomes an ineffective solution. Therefore, it has to be done at a smaller scale and coupled with other solutions that rely on Korea’s existing population.

The demographic change looming over this country ― and others ― is called demographic transition, which is the decrease in fertility and infant death rate due to improved welfare and technological development. It occurs in developed countries and results in a declining and aging population. The latter is the change in age structure to one with a greater proportion of older age groups, whereas the former is the change in the total overall population.

Immigration intended to offset the decline in the population size is called replacement migration, yet it can also address the declining working-age population. Based on the UN report, Korea has to aim for an annual net immigration of 800,000 between 2035 and 2050 to maintain the ratio of a working-age individual to retiree at 3.0. To bring in that number of people annually is close to impossible considering Korea’s past trends: 156,000 in 2018, and 32,000 in 2019.

To actualize our goal of sustainable economic growth, our solution itself should be sustainable. Therefore a more direct immigration policy is suggested. An example is Japan’s 2019 immigration policy that created two new visa status types for foreigners working in sectors experiencing labor shortages. With this solution, the country with the highest proportion of people over 65 years old was able to target specific industries that require manpower.

The proposed solution above greatly reduced the UN’s recommended annual net immigration, which means we have to look within the country and utilize existing human capital ― Korean women.

Despite having the highest tertiary education rates out of 36 OECD countries for women aged 25 to 34, Korea ranked 30th in women’s employment. An Ewha Law School professor suggests in a CNN interview that such contradicting statistics are proof that discriminatory hiring is still prevalent despite anti-discriminatory laws.

The Korean judicial system needs to address this issue with stricter consequences. The initiative to change should also come from organizations, and at all levels of management. Every individual is responsible to correct old prejudices and biases that promote sexism.

Yet, encouraging female employment means more than just hiring more women. It also means hiring them for leadership positions, and jobs that are historically perceived to be more appropriate for men ― referring to labor-intensive work.

Other potential solutions are empowering the elderly and extending the work-life of workers. It’s important to mention that this solution is not simply done by increasing the retirement age. Instead, it’s done by carrying out health-related initiatives and promoting lifelong learning.

Firstly, lifelong learning. Currently, Korea already has the Lifelong Education Act. Under this statute, the Korean government can plan programs purposed for cultivating human capital potential.

One way to do that is by providing opportunities for people to learn emerging skills, similar to what the Singapore University of Social Sciences is already doing. They’re offering credits for courses in emerging skills to their alumni. This is a potential solution because technological innovations also mean a workforce that needs to be trained in utilizing said technology. This resource should also be available to people of all ages and employment status.

Secondly, concerning health, investing in preventive countermeasures is impactful. Educating the public on ways to take care of their health will be cheaper compared to subsidizing healthcare costs due to ailments.

One supporting case is the company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) that strategically planned wellness programs for their employee’s social, mental, and physical health. Their efforts resulted in $250 million in healthcare savings. For every dollar J&J spent on wellness programs, they received a return of $2.71 between 2002 and 2008. Harvard Business Review even suggests that every dollar invested in health-risk prevention saves $6 in healthcare costs.

Korea’s working population has been decreasing due to population aging and decline. Replacement immigration has been suggested as a solution to this issue.

Yet the answer to whether or not Korea should embrace more immigration to ensure sustainable growth is not a simple yes or no. Replacement migration is one solution to this, but it shouldn’t be the only one. An issue as complex as this one needs more than just one big solution. Like a pride of lions hunting their prey, so should we address this issue, with several solutions.

Maria Natasha Lintang is a student at the State University of New York, Korea.

Source: Immigration not the only solution to demographic change